Exclusive Interview with Dithapelo
I was born in Bobonong in 1986. I am currently a medical officer intern at a hospital in Maun, slowly learning the ropes. I studied in Botswana until form 5 and then I went to the U.S for university at Stanford University. I completed my medical training in Grenada and London. I like to read a lot and I think my love of reading led to my invention of the board game.
Dithapelo, congratulations on such a huge and exciting achievement, you have certainly made our country proud. Can you tell us about your exciting invention?
A class I took at Stanford University got me interested in African divination. An article I read on the divination practice known as ditaola in Botswana made me realize that the ditaola use the mathematics that allows computers to write words (binary code). It then hit me that if ditaola use the math that allows computers to write words then this means ditaola can write words too! It was a very exciting moment when I discovered that I could make ditaola ‘speak’ any language.I then designed a game where people use ditaola to write words. The game celebrates our culture while helping people understand how computers write words.
Growing up as a young girl in Botswana, did you ever dream of inventing a game in the future?
I never imagined I would invent a game. It was just very fortunate that I briefly learned about binary codes and my mind was able to see the code in our own ditaola allowing me to invent the game.
What inspired you to create Temalo code and decode?
There are not many uniquely African board games available for sale in the world. Once I realized I could make African tablets spell words to create an ‘African Scrabble’ I was very determined to make the board game a reality. I hope when some young Batswana hold my game they will be inspired to invent new games too if they have good ideas for games. With determination anyone can make a good idea come to life. The game is tangible proof of this.
We play foreign board games all the time, why not make more African inspired games to play as well. I hope Africans who own Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess and Snakes and Ladders will be glad and proud to finally add a board game invented by a fellow African to their collection of games.
How long did it take you to invent the game?
I noticed that ditaola had a special code in late 2010 and then over a few weeks of getting to understand the code fully I was able to realize that the code could be used to write words. Once I realized this I used this concept to create the board game.
Were there any notable challenges along the way?
It was hard to find a company to make the game while I was abroad studying. I was never in Botswana long enough to apply for youth funds or to find local companies to work with. I did a lot of research on the Internet to find a U.S company to make the game.
What age group is the game targeted towards?
The game is aimed at anyone aged 12 years and above. I hope families can play the game with their children in secondary school because children at this age could discover they like coding and decoding and then choose to pursue computer science at tertiary. Children who come to fully understand the code could have a natural knack for mathematics, which parents should nurture and encourage.
How can people around the world get hold of the game?
Anyone outside Botswana can get the game online at:
I am excited to announce that a local company called Interpret Graphics has decided to make the game in Gaborone. Once they make the game I will look for shops to distribute the game around Botswana. I plan to advertise the game well in the media once the copies from Interpret Graphics are available. The copies will be ready in a few months. Interpret Graphics wants to use durable plastic to make the game last longer which is exciting. Botswana employees will be making the game at Broadhurst Industrial therefore if you buy the game you will put money into local pockets.